President Muhammadu Buhari has been advised to sack Nigeria’s Ambassador to Libya over his alleged failure to inform the Federal Government about the plight of Nigerians who are being sold as slaves in the oil-rich country.
Making the appeal in this interview with TUNDE THOMAS, a top chieftain of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organization, Afenifere, Senator Femi Okurounmu, lamented that the sordid ordeal Nigerians were going through with the knowledge of embassy officials could have continued if the Cable News Network, CNN had not exposed the evil trade that was going on in Libya. Okurounmu also spoke on other national issues.
The Afenifere held an emergency meeting mid-week in Akure, Ondo State capital, what’s the meeting all about, why the emergency meeting?
We are all worried, and as elders we must be worried when things are not going normal.
The state of affairs in Nigeria today calls for concern. It calls for sober reflection. The situation of things, especially socio-economic situation are getting worse.
Hunger and poverty are on the increase. Fulani herdsmen are on rampage all over the country. In Adamawa State as we are talking, they have murdered some village heads, killed and maimed innocent villagers. Fulani herdsmen are on rampage. The horrific situation in Adamawa has become so terrible that for the first time, President Muhammadu Buhari, a known defender and apologist of murderous Fulani herdsmen had to send the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to the state.
Today, Nigeria has become a living hell for citizens, and that’s why Nigerians are running away from the country. Young men, women, nursing mothers are leaving Nigeria in search of greener pastures, but now see the end result.
Look at what is happening to Nigerians in Libya today. What a shame, a big shame, very big shame on our leaders. Nigerians are now being sold in open market as slaves.
The most embarrassing aspect of it all is that this government under the leadership of President Buhari has an Ambassador in Libya who was privy or had knowledge of what is happening to Nigerians but refused to cry out or inform the Nigerian government, or may be he did so we don’t know. But the bubble eventually burst and the whole world knew what was happening to Nigerians when the CNN carried the report. What a shame. If it were to be in a normal country where things work or where there is accountability, Nigeria Ambassador to Libya should have been fired. He should have been given the boot.
Let’s call a spade a spade, Buhari’s government has failed Nigerians. Situation of things has never been so terrible for Nigerians. If Buhari has a good administration, Nigerians would not be running away from the country. Buhari is clueless in coming up with any programme that will alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians. It is a big shame that our embassy in Libya couldn’t protest or raise alarm about indignity Nigerians were suffering in Libya.
Like I said earlier, in a decent country, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Libya should have been recalled back home and fired. He should have been given the boot. But then, Nigeria is not a decent country. It is a country where anything goes and that’s why the ambassador is still holding his job.
Look at what is happening to other Nigerians who are also perishing in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to cross to Europe. Look at what is happening to young Nigerian ladies and women who are being forced into prostitution in Italy and other cities in Europe. How can you then say we have a government?
Let Buhari and his fellow APC people stop deceiving themselves. Nothing has changed since Buhari and APC came in 2015. If anything has changed at all, it has only changed from better to worse. But are we just going to fold our hands and pretend that all is well. This is why we are worried. My appeal now is to the Nigerian youths to rise up to the occasion. They should form a new political party so that those of us that are progressive-minded can join hands with them to build a new Nigeria. Buhari has nothing to offer, he should go home and rest.
All over the world now, it is the youths’ show, youths are now in charge in Australia, Canada, France and other places, youths are taking over, Nigeria should not be an exception.
On the issue of Fulani herdsmen that you mentioned, what do you think is the way out?
One fact is this, whether we like to admit it or not, Fulani herdsmen have a sinister mission and agenda, and that agenda is to overrun Nigeria. Their aim is to subjugate other Nigerians, but we should all rise up and resist them. We should not allow them to have their way. The sufferings Nigerians are going through in the hands of Fulani herdsmen is too much. These Fulani imperialists should be resisted.
Fulani herdsmen want to take over Nigeria, and they are doing it with the open support of President Muhammadu Buhari. Look at the recent carnage in Adamawa State by Fulani herdsmen, did you see Buhari talking about it or condemning his Fulani kinsmen? No. But if it were to be the other way round, that is if it is the Fulani that were being killed and villagers razed, Buhari would not only have come out openly to condemn the attack, he would have ordered the Inspector General of Police, the Army, DSS and other security agencies to deal with those who attack the Fulani herdsmen. We all remember what happened sometime ago in Ile Ife, Osun State where some Hausa-Fulani attacked the Yoruba, killed some of them and destroyed their property, what Buhari did, instead of ensuring that he called his brothers to order, and denounce them as the aggressors, Buhari ordered the Inspector General of Police, to arrest the Yoruba while the Hausa-Fulani aggressors were not touched. What a country! What a leader! Some of us that know Buhari very well warned Nigerians about the danger of voting for this man, but then Bola Tinubu and some others deceived the Yoruba people and other Nigerians into voting for Buhari, now we are all paying the price for it.
The only way to checkmate Fulani herdsmen is for Nigerians to fight them back. Where they attack people, people should not fold their hands, they should fight back. Fulani constitute less than 10 percent of Nigerian population. So why should we allow them to hold us to ransom. When Nigerians fight back, Buhari will then know what to do about his brothers. Then, he will know that he has to do something.
On the recent visit by the national leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti in Akure …
It is a good development if Tinubu has finally deemed it fit to visit Pa Fasoranti, our leader. To many, the visit portends the beginning of good rapport between Afenifere leaders and Tinubu. Afenifere leaders have nothing against Tinubu.
Tinubu is now like the biblical prodigal son who has come back home. But having said this, it is now left for Tinubu to demonstrate good intentions. It is now left for him to prove his loyalty by toeing Afenifere line, to be faithful to the organization.
Why has it been difficult for Afenifere leaders and Tinubu to work together?
Until 1999 when Tinubu was sworn in as Lagos State governor, he had always been with us. We were all together.
But after Tinubu became governor, he now decided to severe the ties with Afenifere. It was not only Tinubu but also other state governors that were elected on the platform of the then Alliance for Democracy, AD that joined Tinubu in severing ties with the Afenifere. The only exception was late governor Adebayo Adefarati of Ondo State. He was the only one that continued to identify with Afenifere.
All other AD governors namely late Lam. Adesina of Oyo State, Chief Olusegun Osoba of Ogun, Chief Bisi Akande of Osun State and Niyi Adebayo of Ekiti State with Tinubu started boycotting Afenifere meetings. It was nothing short of betrayal – they all betrayed Afenifere. After becoming state governors using Afenifere as political platform to get elected, they now turned their back on Afenifere.
There were several attempts to bring Tinubu and other governors back into Afenifere fold, but all our efforts were futile. Our late former leader, Pa Abraham Adesanya reached out to Tinubu, Osoba and others but Pa Adesanya’s efforts failed because Tinubu and others refused to come back.
Who initiated Tinubu’s recent visit to Pa Fasoranti, was it Afenifere leaders or Tinubu’s camp?
I don’t know, but you will recall that there was a time some Afenifere leaders visited Tinubu when Yoruba leaders felt concerned about the way Buhari’s government is treating Tinubu. Many Yoruba leaders felt that Buhari’s government was not giving Tinubu his dues, and that Tinubu was being humiliated.
The feeling among Yoruba leaders was that it was not Tinubu that was being humiliated but that it is the entire Yoruba race that was being rubbished going by the way Tinubu was being treated. Therefore, Afenifere leaders resolved to stand in solidarity with Tinubu, hence that Afenifere delegation’s visit to Tinubu. Therefore my belief is that Tinubu’s visit to Afenifere leader was a reciprocal one.
But the general belief all along or what some people have been saying was that the relationship between Tinubu and Afenifere leaders became strained in 2003 when the former Lagos State governor reportedly advised Afenifere leaders and his fellow AD governors in the Southwest against going into alliance with former President Olusegun Obasanjo who then was desperate that the Yoruba should vote for him and his party, PDP during the presidential election …
That’s a distortion of history. Those saying that are being economical with the truth. They are also being unfair to the Afenifere leaders.
Afenifere knew nothing about that alliance between AD governors and Obasanjo. Tinubu and other AD governors didn’t tell Afenifere about it. It was their own plot and plan, but at the end of the day, that alliance boomeranged and all AD governors except Tinubu lost reelection. They lost because Obasanjo betrayed them.
Now let me set the record straight for posterity sake. The so-called alliance between Obasanjo and the AD governors was midwifed by former governor Olusegun Osoba of Ogun State. Osoba was the mastermind. Afenifere knew nothing about it.
It is not that Tinubu is either smart or not that made him the only AD governor that didn’t lose reelection or rigged out by Obasanjo. What happened was this, as at that time, Tinubu was very close to the former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, they were close pals. Atiku and Obasanjo were not yet estranged, and Atiku was part of the grand plot by Obasanjo to rig out AD governors.
So when it was time to execute that plot, Obasanjo and Atiku’s rigging machinery ensured that all AD governors, namely Lam Adesina of Oyo State, Bisi Akande of Osun, Niyi Adebayo of Ekiti, and Osoba who midwifed the secret alliance with Obasanjo were all rigged out. Tinubu was spared because Atiku decided to spare him being his close friend so that’s the story of what happened that time. Obasanjo used Atiku to mastermind the rigging out of all AD governors but he decided to spare his friend Tinubu because of the personal relationship between them.
Some people are looking up at Tinubu as a future Yoruba leader like late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, what’s your take on that?
My take is that if people are looking for a Yoruba leader in the mould of Awolowo, they should not be looking in Tinubu’s direction.
Awolowo and Tinubu are different. Awolowo was widely and unanimously accepted, not only that, Awolowo and Tinubu are not in the same mould. They also have different type of character. However, I don’t want to make further comment on this. Pa Fasoranti is still alive, he is our leader, and Yoruba leader. We pray that God should continue to give him good health. Pa Fasoranti is a dynamic leader.
The jostling for 2019 general elections seem to have commenced, some people have started ‘Buhari For 2019 Campaign’ and former Vice-President Atiku recently defected from APC to PDP, what’s your reaction to all these?
Afenifere’s position is that all these politicking are a distraction. What we expect is for President Buhari to do the needful, and what is the needful, restructuring of the country should be carried out as soon as possible. There is a lot of danger if Buhari continues to procrastinate over restructuring. We are sitting on a keg of gunpowder, which can explode any moment. Failure by Buhari to restructure Nigeria will have severe consequences.
Without restructuring, Nigeria can’t move forward. Buhari should listen to voice of reason. If he thinks or wants the status quo to remain, he is making a big mistake. Peace will continue to elude this country unless we restructure.
How do you see the recent defection of Atiku to PDP as it has become a subject of debate and controversy?
It amounts to a waste of time talking over that. Atiku has become a commercial politician, political merchant, mercantile politician.
Atiku is one of those Nigerian politicians who see politics as business, and he is one of those several politicians who have been running Nigeria as a political enterprise. Through this way and by their greed, they’ve run Nigeria down. Nigerians should forget about Atiku and his generation of greedy political class who have ruined Nigeria.
What Nigeria now needs is a new crop of focused, and patriotic youths who should go and form another political party with the sole aim of rescuing Nigeria from PDP and APC. There is no difference between APC and PDP. Both parties including President Buhari have nothing to offer Nigerians. Again, people like Atiku should be considered as men of yesterday. Nigeria should be forward looking and not be thinking about somebody like Atiku who is part of those who ruined Nigeria.
How do you see Buhari for 2019 campaign …
What can Buhari offer? Nothing. Buhari should be considered as part of the men of yesterday. He and others in that category should be swept away. What I’m looking forward to is formation of a new political party by the young people, who will be ready to challenge Buhari and APC. I will gladly join such a party and team up with them to disgrace Buhari out of office through popular vote.
For those Buhari apologists saying that Buhari is making a difference, what kind of difference. They should not think that they can pull wool over the eyes of Nigerians. They want us to believe that Buhari is an anti-corruption crusader – foul. Can Buhari be described as an anti-corruption fighter with Mainagate scandal which deeply involved him and his close associates. Maina, a man who stole billions of pensioners money, how was he reabsorbed into the civil service under Buhari’s watch?
Buhari and his associates have questions to answer on Maina. Not only that, is it not under the same Buhari’s watch that the Group Managing Director of NNPC awarded contracts worth over 25 billion dollars without approval and consent of the Minister of State for Petroleum? What about Buhari’s former SSG, Babachir Lawal who was indicted for fraud? Although the man has been relieved of his duty, have they prosecuted him? The man is still walking the streets free. There are several other cases.
Nigerians should form a new political party to challenge APC and Buhari. APC and PDP are chop-I-chop political parties. Nigerians should not put their hope in any of them.
As a former lawmaker, what is your reaction to the insistence of senators and House of Representatives members that they would not reveal their exact salaries and allowances as being demanded by members of the public?
I’m shocked and disappointed. If these senators and other lawmakers don’t have skeletons in their cupboards, why are they afraid of telling Nigerians what they earn monthly?
These lawmakers should realize that they owe it as a duty to consent to what members of the public are demanding from them. It is the taxpayers money we are talking about. It is public money they are collecting and so members of the public have a right to know what they are earning.
I was in the Senate between 1999 – 2003, I vividly remember that what we were being paid that time was only our salaries, no other allowances and our salaries were in public domain, it was what members of the public knew – so what is our senators and other lawmakers hiding from Nigerians? If their hands are clean, and they have nothing to hide, they should speak out.
Let me point out this, these our lawmakers can’t reveal what they are earning because what they are collecting as allowances today is outrageous, and this amounts to corruption. It is very immoral.
Who will the Yoruba support in 2019. Buhari or Atiku?
Like I said earlier, we are not thinking about any individual and 2019 for now. Our major preoccupation now is how to save Nigeria from becoming a failed state. Things are getting worse, agitations are increasing all over the place for a just and equitable society.
We are still watching the political landscape, we are yet to take a position on 2019. It is neither Buhari nor Atiku that we are thinking about now, it is Nigeria that is on our mind.
Will Yoruba support or ask Tinubu to run in 2019?
Like I said just now, it is Nigeria that is on our mind now and not individuals. That’s why I said something urgent should be done about Restructuring now. Failure to do so will have unpalatable consequences.